Bristol Organic Food Festival

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I really wish I was the people type. I wish I didn’t mind sales, or crowded bars, or concerts, or public transport. But I do, I do. I dread any situation in which my personal space might get encroached upon. This is my problem, rather than anyone else’s, I know, and I think my life would be rather nicer if I could stand it. And I wouldn’t have dreaded the food festival, which I last went to two years ago, a huge event full of organic producers and retailers. It stretched across Bristol Harbourside, there seemed like thousands of stalls and seemingly, tens of thousands of people – there can’t have been that many. It was horrific. But yet, despite being pushed around, and prodded and ignored and trodden on, I came home with bags and bags  full of stuff which I had been inspired to buy. It was worth it, but only just. I didn’t go last year, possibly I couldn’t face it, maybe I was on holiday. But I decided this year, thinking Greedy Boy might appreciate it (how wrong can one woman be?), that we would go.

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And it wasn’t a nightmare. It wasn’t. It wasn’t heaving with people. Without trying  too hard I could get to the front of most stalls, unless they were giving away free samples of something with perceived value, and try things, pick up leaflets, talk to stall holders. Mostly. And most stall holders were charming, well informed people – I did have one woman telling me that her cobnuts were ‘fat free’, which did make me laugh. But what can you do? But it wasn’t.. it just wasn’t a totally great day out. Entry was £5 per adult, which isn’t a great deal of money, but I did wonder exactly what we were supposed to be paying for, especially since the size of the festival was probably about a third as it had been in previous years?  This is the ‘largest organic gathering in Europe’ apparently and I could have walked from one end to the other in less than 10 minutes. Was it the Kids Taste Tent, a small and sparsely populated tent, the main attraction of which appeared to be face painting. Which my son might have been interested in had there not been a need to put his name down on a list… Me: ‘how long is the wait?’  Attractive, pleasant woman acting as door security: ‘uhhh… I don’t know. Ten minutes maybe?’ If your name’s not on the list, Son, you’re not going in. Or was it to see Wallis and Gromit? Who were allegedly there, but we only saw their pictures on the side of baking kits marketed to children. Or was it the opportunity to visit such famed organic food names as Daily Mail owned local rag, The Evening Post? Rathbone Greenbank Investments (mmh, lovely pasties.. oh, what do you mean, this key facts document isn’t food)? Solarsense? The NHS? Or perhaps to squeeze in to buy an overpriced pint in the one festival bar (sponsors Fuller’s Honeydew ensures there is no other organic draught beer or lager on tap)? Was it the live .. ahem..entertainment? Was it the opportunity to watch live cookery demonstrations, which being around at the times listed in the brochure, we were still unable to find? Or was the point to buy stuff from the people selling food, drink, organic box schemes, bed linen, and cosmetics? Or was it to fund the Soil Association? God knows. I think I could resist paying again though.

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It wasn’t all bad news. In between the water filter retailers, and the people selling chicken coops, I did meet some interesting people. We bought some beautiful beef, which I roasted for lunch today. We bought some lovely bacon, cookies, carrots, cheese. Greedy Boy and Mr Greedy enjoyed their burgers, and had I been hungrier, I could have had some amazing looking jerk chicken, or curry, or crepes. We had an oyster from a fresh seafood bar, we did have that overpriced pint and bought GreedyBoy an undrinkable organic drink (Kylie drinks it does she? Is that why it costs so much?). We wandered around in the sunshine. Nobody stood on my foot.

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Maybe it’s the recession that has driven those smaller organic companies away. Maybe its the recession that has stopped this being a packed out event. I didn’t see a great deal of marketing for it, but I do wander around half asleep much of the time. But in my view, if the soil association wants these events to flourish in the same way as say, the Taste festivals or the Good Food shows, in my view they’re going to have to offer a great deal more bang for the buck in future years. People who put a lot of weight on buying organic, fairly produced food aren’t always the same people who fling around fivers like confetti when money is tight.

Anyway. We bought lovely stuff from: Brockleby’s (amazing bacon, just amazing), Brown Cow Organics, Bath Soft Cheese Ltd & Farrington’s Farm Shop.

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Stewed Apples & Apple Crumble

Its that happy time of year when greedy-in-law brings me a bag of apples from her own apple tree, a combination of ‘cookers’ and ‘eaters’, completely organic. When I say completely organic, I mean complete with worm holes, the odd worm, spots and rotten patches. Misshapen, bruised in places and all shapes and sizes I think, when the work of cleaning, peeling, coring and digging out the bad bits is done, that these are some of the best apples in the world. I estimate I lost maybe half to two thirds of a kilo in in my inexpert preparation but given they were free, and I was still left with almost 2 kilos of apple when it was all cooked down, I don’t mind at all.And aside from the apple crumble I make (See below), I portion the apple up and I freeze it – ready for applesauce, apple pie, apple cake, apple anything. I’ve given proportions for just 1 kilo of apples, because I think that is all most people are realistically going to have. Easy to double or half.

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Firstly, wash the apples. Peel and core, and slice into quarters for small to medium, or eighths for the big ones. If they have come off someone’s tree, you will need to dig out holes and nasty bits and check for worms, if they have come from Waitrose, not so much. If you are as slow as I am (and I am slow) put the quarters into a bowl of water into which you have cut and squeezed a couple of big chunks of fresh lemon. If you don’t do that, there is a chance they will go brown. When you’re ready, fish the apples pieces out of the water and put them in a large saucepan, with some sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water. I don’t like my apples sweet, and I don’t add sugar to fruit generally, I’d much rather sweeten if I need to at the point of eating. However, I’d put up to three teaspoons of sugar in these and stir them round . If you do have a sweet tooth, and you’re only planning to use them in sweet dishes and not feeding babies or anything, you can put in up to 100g of sugar per kilo of apples. Myself, I think you’d be crazy. Shake the pan, and then cook over a medium heat until the apples have gone fuzzy at the edge and you can put a fork right the way through them. You don’t really want them any softer than that in my view. And that’s that.

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So to make crumble when you already have stewed apples is incredibly easy. I remember making it in home ec when I was about 11. To my apples I added about 4 tablespoons of mixed dried fruit, and to the crumble mix I added a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon because I was looking for a bit of a streusel taste. I served mine with custard. I wish I was the sort of person to NOT use Birds’ custard, and make my own with a vanilla pod and some egg yolks, but.. I’m not. And Birds is really a’ight for a family teatime. To serve three or four maximum. Crumble recipe in imperial measures I’m afraid. Its older than metricity itself!

  • 500g stewed apples
  • 5 oz plain flour
  • 3 oz brown sugar
  • 3 oz butter, at room temperature

Preheat oven to Gas 5. Simply, put the apples in a pie dish or small oven dish. In a large bowl, put the flour in and then start mixing the butter in with your fingers until you have a breadcrumby looking mixture and the fat is evenly distributed. Add the sugar and cinnamon, and mix similarly. Tip onto the apple mixture and , pressing down slightly as you go, heap it on so its relatively evenly covered, and put in the oven for 30-40 minutes until browned on top.